JAMES BROWN: A different perspective on Betsy DeVos

To the editor,

I’m writing in reply to all of the editorials and articles concerning the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education. Decidedly, these have mainly been in the negative.

I have no problem with concerns or questions about incoming nominees for cabinet positions. It is a very important subject that should not be taken lightly. There are different concerns than those in the editorials written by Mr. Crees, Mr. Roberts and Mr. Kitchenmaster in the last couple weeks.

I share a concern that Mrs. DeVos has been nominated for strict reasons of donor reward or political patronage. I’m not so sure that she would fight hard for school choice either, as others believe.

My largest concern with Mrs. DeVos is her supposed interest and support for common core. I do not support common core or any other one-size-fits all approach set by the government for anything.

It is also hard to argue that she was not very well prepared for her confirmation hearing at Capitol Hill. Although I will say everyone tries to give shallow and politically correct answers to questions coming from those on the opposite side of the political aisle. For instance, Senator Bernie Sanders asked if she will push for free college.

What does anyone expect her to answer?

Yes, I will? She comes from a different side of education philosophy than Bernie Sanders.

Mr. Kitchenmaster’s letter questioned DeVos’ qualifications because she and her family attended private schools through their lives. Many people send their children to private schools. For instance, Barack Obama sent his girls to private schools in Illinois and Washington, D.C. while he was a senator and president respectively.

A Heritage Foundation survey, less than ten years old, showed that nearly half of the country’s senators sent their kids to private schools. The same survey showed that nearly half of the public school teachers from Cincinnati and Philadelphia sent their children to private schools as well.

Dr. Walter Williams and others have researched and written extensively on public school issues. Washington, D.C. area public schools are at or near the top in public school spending, average teacher salary, and even teacher to student ratio. Yet they have continual abysmal performance, including a graduation rate lower than the national average. There are similar figures in many of our nation’s large cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Detroit.

The editorials I read concerned with Mrs. DeVos, and her philosophy, were all worried with her taking public school money and putting it in private schools or pockets. Is this any worse than lining the pockets of the public schools and bureaucrats? Why is money the most important factor, and not solid reforms from the status quo?

There are good public schools. Right here in Big Rapids there are some. However, not every public school is good. Continuing the same failed systems in bad public schools while increasing the funding for them does not make sense. Betsy DeVos hasn’t even been voted in to her position yet, but she is being called the wrong candidate already.

She may not be a good choice in the end. After all, she may just keep throwing a lot of money at the same old problems that don’t work, and under a one-size-fits-all approach. If she does this, then I agree that she was the wrong candidate.

James L. Brown

Big Rapids

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